from prevailing on an issue he might have but did not assert in the prior action. See Gregory, 843 F.2d at 116.
3. Similar Cases
The facts here distinguish this case from three similar Third Circuit decisions. In Gregory, 843 F.2d 111, a police officer claimed he was fired in retaliation for his political activities. He challenged his dismissal in the court of common pleas, contending the township council dismissed him because its members were biased against him. The court affirmed the discharge, concluding there was no bias. The officer then brought a section 1983 claim in federal court against the township and various individual defendants in their personal and official capacity, alleging he was fired for engaging in protected political activity.
On the basis of claim preclusion, Gregory held the federal claims against the township and the individual defendants in their official capacities were essentially identical. The court held the state proceedings barred the federal claims, but treated the claims against the defendants in their individual capacities differently. It held res judicata did not bar the personal capacity claims because the state court judgment only reached the individual defendants in their official capacities. The court then addressed whether issue preclusion barred the personal capacity suits.
Gregory held collateral estoppel was not a bar because the state court proceedings had not resolved the dispositive issue in the federal personal capacity claim. Gregory noted the state court ruled only that the town's dismissal procedures were not biased. The relevant issue in the federal personal capacity case was whether there was a wrongful discharge for protected political activity.
As I have previously discussed, in this case the threshold issue in the state and federal proceedings is identical: the reason for Edmundson's discharge. This case is therefore different from Gregory, and issue preclusion bars Edmundson's federal claims.
The same point distinguishes Kelley v. TYK Refractories Co., 860 F.2d 1188 (3d Cir. 1988). In Kelley, an American employee, Roger Kelley, and his former Japanese employer, TYK, disputed whether Kelley quit voluntarily or not. Kelley claimed he refused to engage certain Japanese business practices and to discriminate against employees and deny them various rights under state and federal law. During a meeting to address Kelley's complaints on the matter, Kelley became angry, said, "I'm leaving," and did not return to work for three days. TYK contacted him and said it was accepting his resignation, a position it maintained when Kelly asserted he had not resigned. Kelley filed for unemployment benefits, and while he was appealing a negative decision on whether he had resigned or not, brought a section 1981 claim and several state claims against TYK.
A Pennsylvania unemployment compensation referee decided Kelly did not quit voluntarily and granted him unemployment benefits, but the Unemployment Compensation Review Board reversed. The board held Kelley voluntarily terminated his employment and had not borne the burden of showing cause of a necessitous and compelling nature for doing so. The Commonwealth Court affirmed, and after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear Kelley's appeal, TYK claimed the state unemployment proceedings precluded the section 1981 suit. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment.
The Third Circuit reversed. Citing Odgers v. Commonwealth Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 514 Pa. 378, 525 A.2d 359 (1987), Judge Higginbotham noted the policies and rights involved in a section 1981 suit are different from the rights and policies involved in an unemployment benefits proceeding. More specifically, Judge Higginbotham held the unemployment compensation board's decision did not reach the same issue as the section 1981 claim involved and therefore could not have preclusive effect. He wrote:
With respect to the question of whether there was a necessary and compelling reason for Kelley to voluntary depart TYK, the [unemployment] Board decided only this precise question: that the referee was incorrect in concluding that a proposed job transfer, from Chief Executive Officer to Sales Manager, without decrease in salary or perquisites, constituted necessitous and compelling cause for a voluntary termination. Kelley, 860 F.2d at 1196.